CNN hosts town halls with Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar

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11:12 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Highlights from CNN’s Nevada town halls 

From CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Eric Bradner, Greg Krieg, Dan Merica, DJ Judd 

CNN
CNN

Sanders doesn't say whether he'd accept Bloomberg's financial backing

Bernie Sanders didn’t answer a question about whether he would accept hundreds of millions of dollars in help from Michael Bloomberg if the Vermont senator becomes the Democratic nominee. 

Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he doesn’t have a super PAC and hasn’t asked for one, but then ignored a question about whether he’d accept Bloomberg’s money. 

Sanders: "I do not believe in online bullying. End of discussion"

Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night sought to fully divorce himself from supporters who have harassed others online and questioned whether anyone who believes in his agenda would attack a union leader.

Top officials at the Culinary Union in Nevada accused Sanders backers of swarming them online after flyers distributed by the union, which said Sanders would "end" their health care, went viral.

“I do not believe in online bullying," he said. "End of discussion.”

Sanders also questioned whether some of the social media comments cited by critics were, in fact, written by his supporters.

Buttigieg calls for Attorney General Barr to resign

Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday – for the first time – that he believes Attorney General Bill Barr should resign because of his handling of politically sensitive cases like that of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone

“Absolutely,” Buttigieg said about Barr stepping down. “This really is an emergency, it's an emergency of legitimacy in our justice system. Our justice system only works if it is immune from the interference of politicians.

Buttigieg to Trump: "My marriage… never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star"

Pete Buttigieg excoriated Donald Trump and one of his most high-profile supporters for questioning his marriage to his husband, Chasten, on Tuesday, telling an audience in Las Vegas that his marriage “never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star.”

Buttigieg is referring to $130,000 in payments arranged by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star known as Stormy Daniels who says she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after Trump married his wife Melania. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, but admitted in 2018 that he knew of the payments "later on."

Klobuchar says she's glad Bloomberg will be on debate stage

Amy Klobuchar said she’s glad Michael Bloomberg will be on stage for the upcoming Democratic debate Wednesday night in Nevada. 

“I actually thought he should be on the debate stage because I don’t think you should just be able to buy your way to the presidency,” she said. 

Klobuchar attributes not knowing the Mexican president’s name to long day

Amy Klobuchar sought to explain her inability to name the president of Mexico in an interview last week by pointing to a long day of campaigning and Senate votes.

Klobuchar also looked to fire back at Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday after the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor used the misstep to question the Minnesota senator’s Washington experience.

“When that happened, for what it's worth, I had been in the Senate all day. We had six votes, including a resolution to be a check on the president,” Klobuchar said. “And I got on a plane and got there at midnight my time and had a fast interview and two forums after that, I think ending at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Such is life.”

10:59 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Klobuchar: ‘Anyone that's worked in the criminal justice system knows there's institutional racism’

From CNN's Dan Merica

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Amy Klobuchar, who before running for Senate worked as county attorney for Minnesota’s largest county, defended her criminal justice record on Tuesday, telling voters in Nevada that “anyone that's worked in the criminal justice system knows there's institutional racism.”

The issue is a growing one for Klobuchar: Her rise in the Democratic nominating process has coincided with more scrutiny on her record as county attorney for Hennepin County, including the case of Myon Burrell, a teenager who was sentenced to life for the killing of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards but now, with the backing of new evidence, insists he is innocent.

“Over the years, I think we have seen just how devastating that is,” Klobuchar said of racism in the judicial system. “And when I was there, I worked hard on, for instance, doing more when it came to white collar crime, doing more with drug courts. And while here were still disparities in our system, like there were any, we had still managed in the eight years to reduce the African-American incarceration rate by 12%.”

Klobuchar said “there's still more to be done,” but ticked through changes she made during her time as county attorney, including racially involved misidentification, DNA review, and diversifying police department and prosecutors’ offices.

“I just think we have to come to grips with the fact that while we must keep our community safe. You can do that at the same time you get at the institutional racism that we have in the criminal justice system,” Klobuchar said.

Issues of racism and policing could be particularly damaging for Klobuchar, who has consistently shown little ability to win over black voters.

Watch:

10:43 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Klobuchar attributes not knowing the Mexican president’s name to long day

From CNN's Dan Merica

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Amy Klobuchar sought to explain her inability to name the president of Mexico in an interview last week by pointing to a long day of campaigning and Senate votes.

Klobuchar also looked to fire back at Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday after the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor used the misstep to question the Minnesota senator’s Washington experience.

“When that happened, for what it's worth, I had been in the Senate all day. We had six votes, including a resolution to be a check on the president,” Klobuchar said. “And I got on a plane and got there at midnight my time and had a fast interview and two forums after that, I think ending at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Such is life.”

Klobuchar and Tom Steyer both couldn't name the president of Mexico when asked during a Telemundo interview while campaigning in Nevada last week.

Klobuchar offered a simple "no" when asked whether she knew President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Buttigieg correctly answered the question.

On Sunday, Buttigieg hit Klobuchar for her inability to answer the question, telling a crowd of supporters in Las Vegas it shows "that there is more to being prepared than how many years you spent in Washington."

Klobuchar responded to the knock, stating, “I would say to the mayor, this isn't like a game of 'Jeopardy!'.”

“This is about, to me, experience and I have so much respect for him and his experience, but my experience is different,” Klobuchar said. “I have been in the Senate. I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat. I think that matters. And most importantly, I have been able to win in rural and suburban districts.”

She concluded: “I think that's really important right now, that we build this coalition, that we not shut people out. I know he agrees with me on that, but I am the one that actually has the receipts of anyone that you'll see on the debate stage tomorrow night that's done it. So, it is just a different experience.”

Watch the moment:

11:08 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Klobuchar: My campaign has to be about more than becoming the first woman president

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Will Lanz
Will Lanz

Amy Klobuchar has a message for female voters who want to elect a woman to the White House.

"I know it would be cool to be the first woman president, believe me, and I think a lot of women out there know exactly what I’m talking about," she said, "but I think that the story that we tell and the campaign that we run has to be more than about that. It has to be about people’s dreams."

Asked what it said about the US that it had not yet broken that barrier, Klobuchar reminded viewers that Hillary Clinton "did get the most votes" in 2016.

"Let's remember that," she said. "I think people are ready for it."

But Klobuchar also indicated that she would not make the historic nature of her candidacy the centerpiece of her campaign.

"I was the first woman in both jobs I had, as a county attorney as a woman senator from my state. I didn’t really talk about it much back then (when she first ran for the Senate) because women had tried to run for the US Senate in (Minnesota) twice and they were both really qualified and they didn’t make it," she said.

"There had been a lot of emphasis on 'put the first woman in,'" Klobuchar said of that race. "That wasn’t enough of a reason. I had to show I had the experience and I had to have a plan of what I wanted to get done. And I made that really clear throughout the campaign. And I think that’s really important in this race, as well."

Klobuchar did speak earlier about other women's issues, like pushing for universal childcare and, if elected, working to get the Equal Rights Amendment over the line.

Hear Sen. Klobuchar's comments:

10:14 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Klobuchar says she's glad Bloomberg will be on debate stage

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Amy Klobuchar said she’s glad Michael Bloomberg will be on stage for the upcoming Democratic debate Wednesday night in Nevada. 

“I actually thought he should be on the debate stage because I don’t think you should just be able to buy your way to the presidency,” she said. 

The Minnesota senator criticized Bloomberg for skipping the trudge through town halls, meeting with voters, and rolling out policies in the early-voting states, saying “that’s what a presidential candidate should do.” 

“We want to make sure that you have the best candidate to lead the ticket, and I don’t think that when people look at Donald Trump, they automatically say, ’Hmm, can we get someone richer?’” Klobuchar said. 

“I think they say, ‘We want to have someone that we know can lead this country,’” she said. “And I think that’s me.” 

Watch the moment:

10:19 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg tried to use Arabic, Spanish and Farsi to help a family at a protest  

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg recalled a time he tried to use his foreign language skills to help a family caught up in the middle of a protest. 

The former mayor speaks eight languages — “some better than others,” he said at a CNN town hall — including Norwegian, Maltese, Arabic, Spanish and Dari. 

The day Trump’s travel ban went into effect, Buttigieg said he was in Houston and decided to participate in a protest at an airport against the ban. Within a few hours, he said there were hundreds of people at the protest.

Buttigieg, who was running to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee at the time, said he had heard a rumor there was an Iranian family that was not being allowed through because of the ban. 

“This family started coming through, and they were being mobbed by TV reporters, and I realized that they may not have had any idea of why there were all these protesters or cameras or anything,” Buttigieg said. 

Buttigieg went up to the family and tried to communicate with the them in Dari, which he said is similar to Farsi. He said he learned Dari when he was deploying to Afghanistan. 

“I see this man emerge, kind of Middle Eastern appearance, his wife is in a hijab, they’ve got three or four little kids, a bunch of suitcases, they look exhausted,” he continued. “And I went up to them and started to ask, you know, are you okay? Do you know what's happening? Do you need any help? Everybody’s here to support you.”

“And the more I tried to say this in Farsi, the clearer it became that he didn’t understand me at all,” Buttigieg said. He then realized the man spoke Arabic, which Buttigieg studied in college, so the former mayor tried to communicate with him in that language. 

“He had no idea what was going on. He was actually Jordanian, and he just wanted to go home,” Buttigieg said. 

“Because I'm wearing a tie, the reporters from one of the local TV stations think that I’m his lawyer, and they start interviewing me. And one of them was from Telemundo, which was in Spanish, and they were asking me to try to ask him questions in Arabic, which I’m not that good at, and they were asking me in Spanish, and it was a real mess,” he said. 

He said in the end, Buttigieg grabbed the luggage cart and helped the family get out of the protest and to the garage where someone was waiting to pick them up. 

Hear the story:

9:59 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg to Trump: "My marriage… never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star"

From CNN's Dan Merica and DJ Judd

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg excoriated Donald Trump and one of his most high-profile supporters for questioning his marriage to his husband, Chasten, on Tuesday, telling an audience in Las Vegas that his marriage “never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star.”

Buttigieg is referring to $130,000 in payments arranged by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star known as Stormy Daniels who says she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after Trump married his wife Melania. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, but admitted in 2018 that he knew of the payments "later on."

The comments also come days after radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that American voters are “still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.” Limbaugh said on Tuesday that Trump, who initially responded to the host’s comments by saying he would not be uncomfortable with a gay president, told him to “never apologize” for his comments about Buttigieg.

“The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values,” Buttigieg said, before pausing for cheers and applause.

“I’m sorry but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse, with him or her,” Buttigieg said. “So, if they want to debate family values, let's debate family values, I'm ready.”

Buttigieg also said he did not take Trump at his word because "he's sending out his supporters to talk in that way."

Watch:

9:46 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg: There’s no "compatibility" between Trump’s behavior and Scripture

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg has routinely spoken about his Christian faith during these events and, again on Tuesday night, argued that religion should not be viewed as the province of any one political party.

Asked whether he believed it was possible to be a Christian and support Trump, he said it wasn’t his place “to tell other Christians how to be Christians.”

“But I will say,” he added, “that I can’t find any compatibility between the way this President conducts himself and anything I find in Scripture.”

Buttigieg also said that his faith would help guide his policy decisions in office.

“The time has come to send a message: that people of faith have a choice,” he said. “And if you belong to a Christian, or any moral or religious tradition, that emphasizes making yourself useful to the oppressed and standing with and identifying with the prisoner, welcoming the stranger -- stranger by the way is another word for immigrant -- yes, that has implications in public life.”

Watch the moment:

9:37 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg: Bloomberg is trying to buy the nomination

From CNN's Dan Merica and DJ Judd

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday that while he would accept Michael Bloomberg’s donations should he become the Democratic nominee, he does believe the former New York mayor is trying to buy the nomination by spending hundreds of millions on ads.

When CNN's Erin Burnett asked Buttigieg if he believes “trying to buy the democratic nomination for president,” the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor said, “Yes.”

“I mean, what else do you call it,” Buttigieg said. “What else do you call it when you dip into your reserves of millions and billions and don't go through the process of campaigning in states like Nevada, Iowa or New Hampshire, going into the diners and the backyards, looking eye to eye?”

Buttigieg has recently started to attack Bloomberg on the campaign trail, telling an audience in Las Vegas on Tuesday that Bloomberg is “a billionaire who thinks that you... can just buy your way on to television and win that way.”

The former New York mayor qualified for Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate on Tuesday.

Buttigieg did separate himself from Bernie Sanders during his CNN town hall by saying that if he were to win the party’s nomination, he would accept the billionaire’s support.

“Sure,” Buttigieg said. “This is the moment to bring everybody that we can into this effort, and I promise exactly one thing in return for any contribution, which is, we're going to take that contribution and use it to go beat Donald Trump.”

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